Thursday, September 22, 2011


Nissan rolled out the Murano back in the 2003 model year as its first entry in the emerging crossover vehicle (i.e., SUV-like body on a sedan platform) segment.
I kind of shrugged it off. Its butt was a bit too bulgy for my tastes, and the toothy grille reminded me of a chart I had once seen in my dentist’s office.
Apparently, not many agreed with me. I have seen a lot of the Murano on South Florida roads over the years, and a neighbor a couple of doors down has one in his driveway. Or had. He may have moved.
Nissan’s boldness with the Murano’s styling obviously has paid off.
Recently, I had the opportunity to drive one around for a week and found that the Murano is very easy to like.
Its interior had the ambiance of an entry-level luxury vehicle with obviously high quality materials used throughout the cabin and not just slapped together either but with attention to fit and finish.
You can operate some functions off the navigation screen or the knobs and buttons below it that operate the audio and climate systems. You’ll also find redundant audio controls mounted on the left side of the steering wheel. (Cruise control functions are the right).
You can operate at least the basic functions of all the technology, including the optional navigation system, without having to delve deep into the owner’s manual. That’s a big plus in my book right there.
The Murano fits into the midsize class and fares well when stacked up against its competitors as far as room and comfort. It is a five-passenger vehicle and offers no third-row seating to get capacity up to seven or even eight, but here’s the way I look at that.
Every vehicle that has third-row seating has to give up a lot in the way of rear storage space, so I’m not sure if you don’t lose more in that tradeoff in the long run than you gain.

If you need that third row and storage space as well, you probably should be looking into a minivan or one of the old full-size conversion vans, if you can find one of those on a used car lot.
What really sets the Murano apart, however, its its handling and driving characteristics.
It comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that is rated at 18 miles-per-gallon city and 23 highway while providing punch of up to 260 horsepower and 240 pound-feet of torque. And it does so on regular fuel, not the premium stuff.
Nissan mates that engine with a CVT (continuously variable transmission). There are no little bumps as the transmission shifts from first to second, second to third, etc. because there are no first, second, third, fourth or fifth or sixth gears, per se. The CVT is constantly monitoring the proper gear ratio to send power to the front wheels. (All-wheel drive is also available on the Murano.)
Frankly, I’m not a real fan of the CVT, but then, I’m one who prefers to shift my own gears with a manual transmission and clutch, though I would accept an automatic in a crossover as long as I could manually select gears, too.
I have driven CVTs that have “false” shift points that allow you to simulate, say, holding the transmission in third gear, but that wasn’t the case with this Murano.
The Murano’s suspension provides a very comfortable ride for both driver and passengers, and drivers will appreciate the steering response.
As for the exterior, the 2011 Murano retains the distinctive styling of the original model. You aren’t going to confuse it with its competitors, like the Subaru Tribeca, Chevy Traverse, or Ford Edge, for example.
At the same time, it doesn’t seem quite as radical as it did went it first came out. Translation: The butt doesn’t seem as bulgy. I wonder if J. Lo knows about this.

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